Other news: New school board member, new law firm and no state monitor
BY JANIE ROSMAN
The heated July day was tantamount to the fuming anger of protestors gathered a second time at the New City home of ERSCD Superintendent Joel Klein, demanding his resignation.
“We need to keep attention on the misdirected school board,” event organizer Eric Grossfeld said. “Klein has been complicit and he needs to go.”
Reports and analyses that he is failing students in the district who are English language learners are underscored by the fact that he’s made derogatory remarks toward dissenters. “In any other district he’d be fired,” Grossfeld claimed.
Parents and students are not the only voices demanding Klein’s resignation. State Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch opined in a June 3 Op-Ed in The New York Times, that his resignation “is a crucial step toward reversing the district’s disastrous decline and repairing the deep rifts in the community.”
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Patricia Lynch Associates Inc. partner Darren Dopp was hired by the district on June 2, 2014, shortly before Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed former federal prosecutor Hank Greenberg fiscal monitor to review how the district spent federal and state funds and other issues.
While he “represents school districts fighting for more school aid,” Dopp, who handled school district matters across the state, noted, “The misinformation (from critics) is so incredible. People think the district is taking money from public dollars. It’s flat-out against the law, and if it does happen, people will go to jail for it.”
He blamed lack of state funding on lawmakers’ focus on failed oversight monitor bills (S5974A-2015) and said the Hasidic community’s growth increased the need for transportation funding.
“There is no mandate for sports or band or enrichment, and these are the only things they can cut, which are luxuries,” Dopp said.
Per the State Education Department regulations, students in grades 1 to 6 must complete the arts including visual arts, music, dance, and theatre (plus other subjects).
By the end of eighth grade, students in New York must have completed one-half unit study each in health education, the visual arts, and music in addition to other courses. Students in grades 9 to 12 must complete one unit of visual arts and/or music, dance or theatre in addition to other courses to receive their high school diploma.
“Dr. Joel Klein said there’s a music program for all the elementary schools – in reality it’s one assembly presentation followed by two half-day classes in grades 3, 4, 5,” East Ramapo Underground co-host Carole Anderson said Sunday morning on WRCR radio.
Dopp maintained, “The State Education Department would never let [the board] do anything that’s wrong. It would intervene.”
There is still $2.4 million of books whose purchases cannot be accounted for by the State Comptroller’s office.
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In early August 2012 a lawsuit — Montesa v. Schwartz, 12-cv-06057, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan) — was filed on behalf of parents, students and taxpayers by public interest law firm Advocates for Justice.
Listing multiple grievances for each part of the law violated by the district’s school board, the lawsuit seeks $10 million jointly and individually. If the case goes before a jury, and the defendants are found liable, they may be required to reimburse the district.
“The bottom line is, as long as some parts of the original allegations still exist, then the lawsuit proceeds,” White said. If the defendants are found liable (causing damage, which in this case is loss of precious years and education that can never be reclaimed), the court will impose fines. [Read more here]
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Two years ago one of the district’s then-law firm’s partners Chris Kirby was caught on camera threatening, using foul language, and acting aggressively, and the video was posted to YouTube. International outrage ensued, and increased focus on the school board pressured it to dismiss the Minerva & D’Agostino firm, to which Kirby belongs.
While the school board achieved victory in Albany it remains clear that pressure can evoke change, evidenced by its decision to hire a new law firm, New York-based Harris Beach.
Dopp said the district created translation services, and its new school board — incumbents Yonah Rothman and Jacob Lefkowitz were re-elected, newcomer Juan Pablo Ramirez succeeded Eliyahu Solomon — offers the district fair representation. He noted that the state’s 2015 failing schools report “lists 178 school districts that are failing, and East Ramapo is not on the list. Look at the graduation rate.”
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